An ORT South Africa campaign to provide students with laptops and other devices is closing the digital divide, according to its chief executive.
Earlier this month ORT SA handed over seven laptops to the Mega Primary School in Tsakane, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The devices were donated by ORT supporters as part of the ‘ORT2Connect the Unconnected’ project.
It is part of a drive to help underprivileged South African youngsters cross the country’s digital divide. ORT SA has encouraged members of the public and businesses to donate devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets that are no longer being used in offices and homes.
A representative of the Tsakane school said the devices were the beginning of a new era in coding for its students.
“What a wonderful surprise, we did not expect this for our school,” she said. “We were told about ORT training but we didn’t think it would bring us this much luck. ORT SA thank you so much. It will make a huge difference in the school.”
Ariellah Rosenberg, ORT SA CEO, said: “Lack of infrastructure and connectivity, along with lack of resources… is widening the gap between privileged and less-privileged communities.
“The Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown highlighted the fact that South Africa is far from ready for online learning, especially for township and rural schools. It is estimated that just 10 percent of South African households have direct access to the internet.”
She said it was vital for the organization to continue its coding clubs through remote sessions. Around 4,000 teachers and students have attended ORT SA’s coding clubs and more than 1,000 young people are part of ORT’s development programs in the Johannesburg area. They learn digital skills and increase their employability by taking part.
“This is critical to the future of our country,” added Ariellah Rosenberg. “We are calling on the public to help us to fast track equality in education.”
ORT SA is also partnering with Computerlab which, together with HP and other partners, has launched a device program for the underprivileged. It will use the expertize across these organisations to repair devices, as well as installing software and sorting out licensing.
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “This initative shows how our global ORT network is engaged in tikkun olam – an effort to heal the world and help others. We have always been driven by Jewish values – and our work with non-Jewish communities is very much part of that commitment.
“ORT is giving young people the tools they need to lead fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on the world around them. I want to take this opportunity to thank the fantastic team at ORT SA, and their partners in this project, for providing such an inspiring example of our values.”
- In a separate project, ORT SA has helped six students with learning difficulties complete their NQF Level 3 qualifications in end user computing despite a series of challenges.
The students, from the Alexandra township, have worked with ORT and Skidata, a local technology company, to finish the course during the pandemic and following the death of their instructor.
Aged between 18 and 28, the students have special educational needs including spina bifida, cerebral palsy and hearing loss.
In a special graduation ceremony on November 12, the students each received their course certificate and a new laptop. You can watch the event here.